Sore throat or pharyngitis can be infectious (viruses and bacteria) or noninfectious. Viruses (such as adenoviruses, coronaviruses, influenza A and B) are usually the problematic organisms for sore throats. In addition to sore throat, other symptoms individuals with a viral infection can experience include a runny / congested nose, irritated or red eyes, cough and hoarse voice.
One of the concerns people may have when experiencing a sore throat is strep throat. Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is the bacterium responsible for strep throat. People who have a sore throat caused by strep usually do not have a cough, runny nose, red or itchy eyes. Individuals with strep throat may have severe throat pain, fever (over 100.4 F), swollen glands in the neck (lymph nodes), white areas of pus on the side and back of the throat and possibly a rash.
If the sore throat is thought to be due to a virus, symptomatic therapy is used which can include zinc, honey, acetaminophen or NSAIDs, warm salt water gargles and hydration.
Strep throat can be diagnosed based on clinical exam with or without a rapid strep test or throat culture. Those diagnosed with strep throat are usually prescribed an antibiotic. Recovery for those with viral pharyngitis improves within 5 to 7 days. Those diagnosed with strep throat, usually start recovering in 24 to 72 hours after starting an antibiotic.
Noninfectious causes of sore throat can include allergies, sinusitis, GERD, smoking / exposure to smoking, exposure to dry ear, trauma and even certain medications.
Symptoms that would prompt urgent management included muffled or hot potato voice, shortness of breath, drooling, toxic appearance, neck pain or swelling. During this day of COVID 19, it can be difficult to assess whether a sore throat is due to one of previously mentioned viruses, COVID 19 or a non-infectious process. So, if symptoms are not improving in 24 – 48 hours contact your primary care clinician. If your clinician will not see you or you do not have one, you can schedule a non-member appointment or become a member of Compassion Primary care, a direct primary care (dpc) practice.